Its been nearly three months since my last post and while nothing has actually changed, everything is different. It’s amazing how once your perspective and intentions shift, everything around you follows in unison. Relocation does not require physical movement; it’s asking yourself to see your familiar space as new.
Last Sunday I came back to Izmir after spending the winter holidays in New Orleans and Austin. I would love to exclaim that Christmas was filled with joy and yuletide and New Years was consumed by Auld Lang Syne, but unfortunately that’s far from the truth. Despite being in the company of the people closest to me, I felt exhausted, frustrated, and unable to communicate simple desires and complex thoughts. I suppose subconsciously I had an expectation that irrespective of being just over three months sober and deep in the process of self-reconstruction, that familiar relationships would fall back into place without effort, as they had always done, and that I would easily reconnect with those who “knew me.”
But this wasn’t the case.
This wasn’t the case because even I don’t “know me” anymore.
This wasn’t the case because the long-held faith I held in the idea that sober me was just alcoholic me without alcohol was a fallacy.
Because I am a completely different person that I was in September 2014.
No longer are my experiences with alcoholism those of my mother and father; I now have my own relationship with sobriety.
Sobriety requires starting from the beginning – it’s creating new morals, beliefs and embodying them as gospel for how I live my life. Sobriety means accepting the person that I actually am because my deep-rooted issues – binge eating, remorse and guilt, body image, anger, etc – are no longer temporarily concealable through the consumption of alcohol nor through the never-ending distraction of social engagements centered on “the drink.” Sobriety means not only acknowledging my areas for improvement, but making concrete and tangible efforts to develop exercises and strategies which properly address them.
And since the beginning of this journey, these past three months have stung with isolation. The fact that bars, clubs, and shisha cafes are Izmir’s primary socializing space, combined with the lack of available alternatives – yoga studios, outdoor activities, community gardens, libraries, etc. – has left me with an overwhelming feeling of loneliness. On countless occasions this loneliness has forced me to question whether I’ve made the “right decision” in becoming sober. Because in the short-term it would be so much easier to go out drinking and dancing with friends than it is to repeatedly explain why I don’t drink. Because even once I do explain why I don’t, my alcoholism is disregarded and laughed away; I’m told it’s not a “real problem” because I’m too “young, pretty, and smart” to be an alcoholic.
This is not at all a reflection of Turkish culture, nor the city of Izmir, as these comments and interactions would occur anywhere. I love Turkey and it’s beautiful people. Having lived here before, I was also aware of the sacrifices (yoga, my family) and the opportunities (beautiful markets, adventures) that result when living here.
But I never anticipated that I’d be in the vulnerable position I’m currently in during my time in Izmir. A position that, for now, absolutely requires yoga, spiritual guidance, cycling, gardening, running, etc. in order to facilitate my honest and true recovery. In order to once again embody the characteristics that my friends and family know and love. In order to love myself again, with all the amendments and changes. And in order to learn how to fully love those around me.
And so, I’m coming home.
I’m declining an incredible offer to extend my current, dream job – working for NATO in Turkey – and will be returning to Washington, D.C. on 4 March – broke and unemployed.
This decision is one which honors myself and my soul, my family and loved ones. It’s a decision that will (hopefully) offer me the internal and external support I need to continue creating the foundation I’ve begun building over the last few months. I’m leaving certainty for uncertainty, and it’s never felt more right.
I’ve been asked countless times “what I’ll do” when I get back to D.C.
Well, I have no idea. And I think that’s the greatest gift that could be offered to me.
The only point of certainty I have is a Yoga Activist training to serve trauma survivors I’m taking the weekend I get back. As an “Alchi Yogi,” I hope to start creating a community in D.C. that recognizes the power of yoga and meditation as a method to aid recovery and sustain sobriety.
I’m going to Turkey’s national Camel Wrestling Festival in two weeks, but until then, I’ll leave you with some meaningful snaps from the end of 2014. – Peace and blessings for a beautiful beginning to the New Year.